The responsibilities and pay of a university professor depend on the rank of the instructor, and whether the professor has earned tenure. Beginning instructors do not have a guaranteed job, and must move up through several positions until tenure can be secured. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the path from beginning instructor to full tenured professor takes approximately seven years.
Many professors begin their careers as instructors. Instructors are typically hired for short-term contracts. Instructors teach classes and conduct research in their chosen field. Once the contract period is over, a university reviews the instructor's performance. If his work is satisfactory, the instructor may move up the ranks and work toward earning full tenure. At many institutions, instructors are not required to have doctoral degrees and may teach while still finishing their dissertations. Instructors for college programs earn an average of £29,885 per year, according to a 2009 survey by the American Association of University Professors.
Assistant professors have a job that is similar to that of instructor professors; however, assistant professors typically have already demonstrated their ability to teach classes and are often hired for extended periods of time while they work toward gaining tenure. Like instructors, assistant professors teach classes within their area of expertise. The American Association of University Professors states that assistant professors earn an average salary of £41,487 per year, as of 2009.
Associate professors are college faculty members who rank below a full professor but above an assistant professor. Generally, associate professors have gained tenure, but must complete additional scholarly research before they can be promoted to the next level. Like instructors and assistant professors, associate professors also spend a significant amount of time teaching classes. According to the American Association of University Professors, associate professors earn an average yearly salary of £49,495.
Full professors have the highest rank within the educational system. Full professors hold tenure and typically cannot be dismissed from the college without due process. This job guarantee allows tenured professors to research groundbreaking or controversial subjects without the fear of cursory dismissal. The average annual salary for a top-level professor is £70,686 per year, according to the 2009 American Association of University Professors survey.